Dietary Protein and Energy Balance in Relation to Obesity and Co-morbidities

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2018 Aug 6:9:443. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2018.00443. eCollection 2018.


Dietary protein is effective for body-weight management, in that it promotes satiety, energy expenditure, and changes body-composition in favor of fat-free body mass. With respect to body-weight management, the effects of diets varying in protein differ according to energy balance. During energy restriction, sustaining protein intake at the level of requirement appears to be sufficient to aid body weight loss and fat loss. An additional increase of protein intake does not induce a larger loss of body weight, but can be effective to maintain a larger amount of fat-free mass. Protein induced satiety is likely a combined expression with direct and indirect effects of elevated plasma amino acid and anorexigenic hormone concentrations, increased diet-induced thermogenesis, and ketogenic state, all feed-back on the central nervous system. The decline in energy expenditure and sleeping metabolic rate as a result of body weight loss is less on a high-protein than on a medium-protein diet. In addition, higher rates of energy expenditure have been observed as acute responses to energy-balanced high-protein diets. In energy balance, high protein diets may be beneficial to prevent the development of a positive energy balance, whereas low-protein diets may facilitate this. High protein-low carbohydrate diets may be favorable for the control of intrahepatic triglyceride IHTG in healthy humans, likely as a result of combined effects involving changes in protein and carbohydrate intake. Body weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance usually shows favorable effects in relation to insulin sensitivity, although some risks may be present. Promotion of insulin sensitivity beyond its effect on body-weight loss and subsequent body-weight maintenance seems unlikely. In conclusion, higher-protein diets may reduce overweight and obesity, yet whether high-protein diets, beyond their effect on body-weight management, contribute to prevention of increases in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is inconclusive.

Keywords: NAFDL; cardiovascular disease; dietary protein; energy balance; food-reward; obesity; protein turnover; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review